Mike Zimmer has long been known as one of the best defensive minds in the NFL, and Sunday he crafted a game plan that led to a well below average performance by Green Bay quarterback and 2011 MVP Aaron Rodgers. The Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator took a break from game-planning for Cleveland on Monday to reflect on Sunday’s 34-31 win.
The network caught Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers arguing with head coach Mike McCarthy on the sideline at one point Sunday. Was that about as frustrated as you’ve ever seen him?
During the game, I was surprised when he looked over. I didn’t know he knew who I was. He looked over at me during the game during a timeout in the first half, and I was staring at my sheet. So I kind of just nodded at him. He still kept looking, so then I gave him a thumbs-up. Kind of like ‘Hey, I respect you.’ And he gave me a salute. That was kind of funny.
Did you know they weren’t going to give their tackles any help in protection and that this would be the defensive ends’ day to shine?
Yeah, we kind of knew that going into the ballgame. I knew going into the ballgame that we were probably going to give up more rushing yards than we probably should, based on the ways that we were playing the game. So I wasn’t going to worry about if they had a 6-yard run here or there. The emphasis was stopping the passing game the best we could and getting pressure on the quarterback. We were focusing on rushing the quarterback quite a bit. I told one of the coaches, ‘I’m not playing this game scared.’ We had a good idea what their pass protection was going to be and how we could get some pressure on them and if they hit a couple runs, they hit a couple runs.
With the defense on the field for 81 snaps, was it kind of a suck-it-up day for your guys?
Yeah, I was proud of that. We sucked it up. There was a time in the ballgame where we could have folded and we didn’t do that. It’s a challenge for them. I know we ended up giving up 400 yards, which is way too many, but we accepted the challenge and we competed like crazy. If you do that and you play smart …
James Harrison only played five snaps after not playing much against Pittsburgh. Is that because you’ve been playing so much nickel?
That was part of it. We planned on giving him lots of reps in the game. I was calling so many blitzes, and he was going to be in a different spot. So it was going to be a little unnerving for him because he had a short time to learn all of them. But I’m impressed with James and his attitude and the way he handles things. He’s good. He’ll be an impact. He will be an impact this year.
In a game like Sunday, don’t you get the feeling there were about 25 plays where if any one of them had gone the other way, you could have been sitting here dealing with a loss right now?
Every week is like that. You go out and have a nice dinner and glass of wine, and next thing you know I couldn’t sleep last night. So I’m up watching tape until 3 a.m. Let’s get to Cleveland. You don’t have much time to enjoy it. You just have to keep fighting.
Who: Cincinnati Bengals (2-1) at Cleveland Browns (1-2)
When: 1 p.m. Sunday
Where: FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland
TV: Ch. 7, 12
Radio: 1530-AM, 102.7-FM, 104.7-FM